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10 Reasons to Love Vienna

The ghost of actor Oskar Werner in a Vienna bookshop. Credit Everett Potter.

by Everett Potter

Vienna is one of my favorite cities in the world. Long on charm, style and tradition, Vienna is undergoing a massive infusion of energy, money and building. A  Ritz-Carlton has just opened and the Hotel Topazz, a Design Hotel, opened last year.  There is an edgy new bar in the heart of the most traditional quarter, a host of eateries with inspired takes on Viennese fare, one of Europe’s best flea markets, and a hotel that redefines the boutique concept. The art that defines the city has never seemed more important. In 2012, the city celebrated the 150th birthday of native son and painter Gustav Klimt, master of eroticism. This year, it’s the reopening of the Kunstkammer Wien and its trove of imperial treasures. If you want to visits cafes and visit the opera, it’s your city. If you want to see cutting edge art and party all night, that works as well.



Cafe Mozart. Credit Everett Potter.

1. Café Mozart
You can spend hours arguing about which is the best café in Vienna — Sperl and Landtmann are among many contenders — but for creaking Thonet chairs, mildly grumpy waiters, a musical diet of Mozart and a room with the look of fin de siècle Vienna, you can’t beat Café Mozart. A simple café mélange (an Austrian café au lait) and a newspaper (they’re kept on rollers) is the way to go. Novelist Graham Greene was a habitué and sat here working on the script for “The Third Man.”


2. Naschmarkt
There’s a fruit and vegetable market here, and a variety of restaurants serving everything from currywurst to fresh fish — with lots of outdoor café seating — but save your visit for a Saturday morning. That’s when the weekly flea market moves in, with hundreds of seasoned dealers selling everything from books to vintage 1950s radios. It’s flotsam, jetsam and a few treasures from pre- and post-war Austria.

P. Bruegel “Hunters in the Snow” . Courtesy Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna

3. Kunsthistorisches
In a city jam-packed with museums, the roomful of works by Brueghel (The Elder), including “Children’s Games” and “The Peasant Wedding,” at the Kunsthistorisches is enough to take your breath away. So is the gallery filled with Dürers. . On January 13, the Kunstkammer Wien, featuring objects commissioned or purchased by the emperor or members of the imperial family, reopens.


4. Gasthaus Poschl
If Gasthaus Poschl were in Brooklyn,  it would be a neighborhood hipster haunt. In Vienna, it has much the same function, but the buzzy local crowd is without attitude. If you’re solo, sit at the bar or along a wall, where an elevated bench and high tables are particularly welcoming to solo diners. They serve Wiener schnitzel that will make you rethink Viennese fare, and typical Austrian wines, such as the hearty red Blaufränkisch (Weihburggasse 17)


5. Loos American Bar
One of the most sublime bars in the world, this Art Nouveau gem was designed by the great Viennese architect Adolph Loos. It’s an ornate jewel box: stylish, but also dark and cramped. Order a glass of champagne — it’s what everyone orders — and then be prepared to hoist it above your head as someone squeezes by you. For the cavalcade of international scene-makers who parade through nightly, it’s worth the squeeze. But if the weather is nice, move to an outdoor table.

6. Albertina Passage
After you’ve seen this year’s production of Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” at the palatial Staatsoper, what do you do for an encore? Go outside and down the stairs to a disused pedestrian underpass that’s been turned into the Albertina Passage — a futuristic bar blasting Motown that’s become one of the city’s underground hotspots.

Otto Wiesenthal, owner of Vienna’s Hotel Alstadt. Courtesy Hotel Alstadt.

7. Hotel Alstadt
There’s an artsy, old world gentility to the Alstadt’s large, high-ceilinged rooms. It’s a warren of rooms  in a late-18th-century apartment building, now a stylish, vaguely eccentric and friendly boutique hotel that’s filled with owner Otto Wiesenthal’s contemporary art collection. It’s especially favored by actors in Vienna for an extended stay. Rooms from $207.


8. Le Bol 

Given the eye-candy tucking into enormous and inventive salads  — especially welcome after too much schnitzel and strudel — sharing a communal table has never been so much fun.  (Neuer Markt 14; 43-699-1030-1899).

The view from the bar of architect Jean Novel’s new Sofitel Vienna Stephensdom. Courestyy of the hotel.

9. Sofitel Vienna Stephensdom

Basil mojitos ($14) may not be your thing, but even a glass of Gruner Veltliner takes on fresh meaning when you take in the view from the eighteenth-floor penthouse bar of architect Jean Nouvel’s new hotel  (Praterstrasse 1; 43-1-906-160).

10. Musikverein

My favorite place to hear music in Vienna is inside this jewel box.  Catch the Vienna Philharmonic or whoever happens to be passing through this most musical of cities.  Just be sure to book tickets as far in advance as you can.


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  1. Nancy Hercher
    January 9, 2013 at 11:27 am — Reply

    Loved your pictures and comments. The Wichita Univ. orch. in 1987 was invited to the first choral symposium in a new concert venue. We stayed at Hotel Wien and I especially enjoyed walking to see all the Art Nouveau and Deco architecture, the Beethoven Secession bldg., and the post office. We played a Bruckner Mass at St. Stephens with the Vienna Boys Choir and a Sunday mass in Salzburg. It was during the festival. A memorable trip. Ended the trip going to Amsterdam from Heidelberg for one last time as Leigh’s career was over due to her injury.
    She had already come back to the states.
    Hello to Gayle and beautiful Emma.

    • January 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm — Reply

      Thanks Nancy — the city is still as magical as ever!

  2. January 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm — Reply

    Wow, the pictures really put it into perspective!

    • January 9, 2013 at 9:55 pm — Reply

      Thanks Steve — great to see you last night.

  3. January 14, 2013 at 9:45 am — Reply

    Hi Everett,

    My parents are in Vienna for the next 6 weeks and working through your list – here is what they reported so far “the first stop was Gasthaus Poschl for lunch today and it didn’t disappoint. It is as described in this article, warm and friendly with good food and good service. We had the clear soup with polenta dumpling and the cream beet soup and goulash. We sat at one of the elevated tables mentioned in the article – next to the tile stove, which was very pleasant given the cold weather. We could see all the food go by to the other customers and will try the schnitzel next time.”

    • January 14, 2013 at 9:56 am — Reply

      Delighted to hear it! I wish that I lived around the corner from Poschl. Other suggestions that I did not have space for:

      Plachutta – near the opera
      Known for schnitzel

      Pastries – 26 locations in the city, including one across from Opera

      Julius Meinl
      The flagship store, one of Europe’s great gourmet emporiums

      And of course, on the rainiest, coldest day, Sacher Torte at the Hotel Sacher. They’ll feel like they’re in a film set!

  4. Lousewies
    February 4, 2013 at 3:15 am — Reply

    Could you do a “10 reasons your kids will love Vienna” please?

    • February 4, 2013 at 5:24 pm — Reply

      How about six to start with ….

      Ride the Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park, one of Europe’s oldest parks …

      Hot chocolate and pastries at Aida or Demel …

      The armor collection at the Kunsthistoriches museum …

      Schonbrunn Palace , a magical place for anyone (and a zoo on the grounds) …

      Carriage ride through Vienna on a “flaker” …

      Spanish Riding School to watch the Lipizzaner stallions parade …

  5. June 26, 2013 at 10:29 am — Reply


    thanks for this fab article about my hometown. I have been to all those places, including the Ritz Carlton’s fantastic rooftop bar (Albertina passage will be ticked off shortly), and could easily double up your list. I’m sure you could, too. I’m looking forward to reading more about your trips to Austria!

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